You don’t have to be a sports fan to know that Tiger Woods won the U.S. Open earlier this week in dramatic fashion. Battling knee and leg injuries that will require surgery, the world’s greatest golfer overcame unimaginable pain to win one of golf’s Major Championships. It’s truly a phenomenal achievement. But, he won a golf tournament. The way the media is covering his win, you’d think Tiger had done something truly important – like curing disease.
I remember where I was when Reagan was shot and where I was when the Space Shuttle blew up. I remember where I was when Princess Di’s car crashed. I remember many events that changed the world. I don’t think I’ll remember where I was when Tiger Woods won a golf tournament. There will NEVER be another golfer like Tiger Woods in my lifetime – or even K-Man’s lifetime. I feel lucky to have had an opportunity to watch him play. But, he’s not curing cancer (and, I’m sorry, but I don’t think his success has had much social impact).
K-Man isn’t old enough to understand where sports fit in the “grand scheme of things,” but when he is, I do truly hope that I can put things in their proper perspective for him. I hope that I’ll be able to explain how sports isn’t something that’s really important enough to live and die for. Hopefully, he’ll understand that sports are great fun to play and great fun to watch. And, hopefully, he’ll be able to get a grip on what really matters.
Don’t get me wrong – I want him to enjoy the spectacle. I want him to be amazed at human achievement, if that’s what he wants. I just don’t want to move him toward the hero worship of athletes. If he wants to worship an athlete, I want it to be because of the athlete’s philanthropic work in conjunction with his athletic prowess. The fact that a dude hits home runs, or cards hole-in-ones doesn’t justify the worship. Awe, maybe. But, not worship.
I’m probably overreacting. It’s happened before. Heck, it’s happened all over these blogs before (all y’all know that). And, maybe it was just because I was in hotels and airports and on airplanes (with TV) all day yesterday, but the coverage of Tiger’s knee surgery was really over the top. Silly. Stupid. I suppose I shouldn’t really be surprised. I am, however, a little bit bummed on a bigger scale.
When I was growing up, watching the Lakers or the Rams or the U.S. Soccer Team was something that my dad and I could bond over. We could watch the game, hang out and if “my teams” lost, all was fine. If they won…all was fine. Things are different now. Because of ESPN, the Internet and sports radio, we live in a 24-hour news cycle. Because of that, sports takes on more “importance” (or so it seems). And…because of that, the analysis and TV coverage get stupid.
I know it’ll ultimately be up to me to help K-Man keep things in perspective. If he were old enough to understand, I’d talk to him about how Tiger Woods is the greatest player to ever swing a club in my lifetime. I’d talk to him about how Tiger endured a great deal of pain to win the tournament (and more than a million dollars, which is lost in all of this). But, I will also explain how what he did falls tremendously short of “courageous.” I will explain how his win didn’t show “his huge heart.” And, I will make sure he understands that Tiger was playing for one thing and one thing only – himself (and the money). That’s what needs to be underscored. I’m not taking anything away from his athletic/golf ability. He’s a true prodigy. A true professional. But, he plays golf.
And, now…The dude is having knee surgery. Let’s all take a breath and get over it.
(P.S. Dear K-Man, Tiger does do some incredible charity work with his Tiger Woods Foundation. Let’s talk about that in a few years.)